Life is a journey.

In one of my novels, "Tidings of Comfort and Joy", one of the main characters, Johnny Devereaux, says, "There are no goodbyes but one and that one is final."

So I'm saying farewell but not good-bye but it's time for a new chapter.

Today, December 1, is my final day with The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. It's the end of the time spent with first Gatehouse Media and now Gannett. It's been one of the best experiences of my life and sometimes one of the worst but that is life.

I made some of the best friends of my life through my job. In the space of several years, I went from columnist to stringer to reporter and then to editor - then to doing all of the above solo for two newspapers.

When I started working at the Daily, I still dropped my kids off at school before I came to work -until one by one, they drove to school on their own, graduated and move into adulthood.

I was a wife when I began and along the way, after my husband endured a year and a half of health issues, I became a widow.

I had no idea when I spent my last day at my desk at the office - in March - that I wouldn't be returning to my desk or the newsroom.

But, this is 2020, a year like no other, and what I thought might be a few weeks has turned into eight months and counting with a virus that has a tighter than ever grip on the state, the nation and the world.

Once upon a time, before I returned to the world of newspapers, I did a lot of freelancing writing and I wrote some novels along the way. Between the growing demands of my job and my husband's last months, I have struggled to find time to write fiction. My most recent novels were published in 2017, Canaan's Lane (January) and Still Waters Run Deeper (October). From there, the trail leads back to 2010, the year I made the transition to author with my first novel. There will be more - my progress has been slow but steady and now I will have the time to complete those works in progress.

When the opportunity came along to accept a voluntary severance package from Gannett, our parent company, something offered across the board nationwide, I decided to accept it. Contrary to what some have said or asked, I was not "let go" nor was my job terminated. This is my choice because it's time for me to move forward.

My plans are simple - first, I'm going to take a little time to get some much needed R&R, to clean my often neglected house, and to enjoy the holidays. Then I'm going to return to my writing roots. I may also return to the classroom, a familiar place since I spent the years between radio and newspaper as a substitute teacher. Writing, however, will be my primary focus.

I like telling stories and writing fiction for me is like reading intensified because I am the one who drives the story although sometimes the characters do what they want, a lot like my kids.

It's not good-bye because my column will continue in the paper - and the powers that be tell me, so will the paper.

I'm going to share a few pictures with this column and I also want to say thanks to some people - thanks to editor John Ford who first gave me space for a column in the Daily, to former publisher Jamey Honeycutt who hired me to be a reporter, to the late (and great) Dave Horvath who became both friend and mentor, to editor Todd Higdon, to Brock Sisney, friend and the last editorial staff member next to me, to my friend and press team cohort Koni Tyler, to advertising director Tim Holder (although I never did get those bacon wrapped dates), to Lauren, Kathi, Aubree and Janelle, and so many more. There are too many people to list who became friends along the way.

So, borrowing the lines from Rodgers and Hammerstein's So Long Farewell from the Sound of Music, So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night - I'll see you in these pages and around town.

-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy has been both reporter and editor for the Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She returns to freelance writing and to writing more novels.